Utopia: a Philosophic and Political Work of Fiction

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Comment on the travel-book apparatus of Utopia. What role does this play in advancing More’s thinking of the book?

Utopia: a philosophic and political work of fiction

The discovery of South and North America was an exciting time for all of humanity. At least, it was for those who were aware of its discovery. Those that knew details of the voyages and the new found countries, did by either being on such a voyage, or they read reports by those who went. These tales of travel to the ‘New World’ were written by Amerigo Vespucci, who’s letters were popular and easily accessible due to the invention of the printing press around the same time. The Europeans were curious and thirsty for news of the New World. Then, in 1516, a book named Utopia was published, which described in detail a distant land, somewhere in the general direction of America. It told of its inhabitants, their rituals and political system. The author, Thomas More was a lawmen and philosopher and had chosen for this work something else then normal. He chose the travel-book format to promote an ideal society. It is most likely that More was aware of the European thirst of knowledge about the new world, but in choosing a travel-book format, he abstained from using the conventional philosophical method of postulating principles and giving arguments for them. What really made More take this particular approach? Surely there was more than just popularity of tales of distant lands. To answer the question, aspects of Utopia will be investigated, in which More’s motivation is reflected. We might, for example, wonder why More put in such effort to make Utopia’s existence as plausible as possible.

It was undoubtedly known by More that tales of the New World were very popular within all of Europe. It can be easily concluded that More wanted to profit from this trend and was therefore his reason for choosing the travel-book format. However, it can be doubted whether this was More’s only reason. Let us first...